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E-scooters: Public benefit questioned and road safety concerns raised

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Nine in 10 say the Government’s proposed rules for e-scooters are unsafe, according to a survey from Venson Automotive Solutions.

E-scooter trials can start this month - a year earlier than planned - to help encourage more people off public transport in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Currently, e-scooters – which can travel at up to 15.5mph – are banned on roads and pavements in the UK.

A consultation into their legalisation was launched in March

The Venson survey shows two thirds of consumers welcome the acceleration of plans to accommodate alternative electric vehicles on the UK’s roads, but many have safety concerns.

Two in five (40%) believe the Government’s proposed rider rules would be broken, such as scooting on pavements which is currently banned, while more than a third (37%) are worried it could be hazardous for pedestrians and other road users if too many people ride e-scooters.

The Government proposals currently state that it is not a legal requirement for riders to have training or wear helmets.  

Just 11% of survey respondents agree this is the right approach – 58% believe both training and helmets should be required, and 31% believe training is unnecessary but helmets should be compulsory.

Alison Bell, marketing director at Venson, said: “We look forward to seeing the results of the trials to understand whether this mode of transport will join the mosaic of sustainable business mobility.

“With manufacturers such as Seat, Daimler and Volkswagen having already invested in the technology, the ability to combine modes of transport for last mile commutes and perhaps even small parcel deliveries is interesting and exciting.

“However, as the survey respondents highlighted there are still some safety concerns which we hope to see resolved during the trials, so that e-scooters can become a safe and environmentally friendly option.”

Nevertheless, almost two-thirds (64%) of respondents said they would consider using an e-scooter as an alternative to public transport if the trials prove successful and schemes launch nationwide.

The Urban Transport Group, in its response to the consultation, says that safety should be at the forefront of the trial, for example, by limiting speed to 12.5mph, banning e-scooters from pavements, recommending – and ideally mandating – helmet use, and setting standards for features such lighting, braking and indicators.

The Group, which represents the UK’s largest urban transport authorities, also wants mandatory training for e-scooter users as a means of opening access to the widest possible range of potential users.

City region transport authorities have also called for a key role in the future regulatory and legislative framework for e-scooters, including the powers to cap the number of rental e-scooters, implement parking restrictions, set standards for rental operators to meet, and require them to share data to help inform transport network planning and avoid outcomes which are against the wider public interest.

Stephen Edwards, chair of the Urban Transport Group and executive director of South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive, said: “We welcome the opportunities these trials offer for agile, real-world testing of e-scooters to inform a later decision around legalisation.

“In making that decision, it is vitally important that Government recognises the need for e-scooters to be introduced safely and in a way that ensures they help – rather than hinder – the achievement of wider city region objectives for people and places, from a pleasant urban realm to a healthy population.”

PACTS says public benefits of e-scooters ‘not real’

In its response to the consultation, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) says it is concerned that by bringing forward the timetable, there will now be inadequate time for consultations to be properly considered or debated.

It says: “We would have expected to see an impact assessment and safety trials of e-scooters undertaken and published, in the way that would happen for motor vehicles or as undertaken recently for innovative cycling infrastructure in London.

“From evidence and experience around the world, it is now very clear that the public benefits are illusory and the disbenefits substantial, at least in a European context.

“As such, e-scooters will work against many of the Government’s objectives. PACTS therefore opposes the trials and wider legalisation of e-scooters.”

As a result of the basic design features of e-scooters and the way in which they are sometimes used, serious and even fatal casualties result, mostly to the rider but sometimes to other roads users, notable pedestrians, says PACTS.

The Metropolitan Police was informed of four injury collisions involving e-scooters in 2018 and 32 in 2019, including one fatality; one third involved injury to pedestrians.

Dr Adam Snow of John Moores University, who has specialised in this issue, said: “The Centre for Disease Control in Texas found in 2018 that the rate of KSI for these modes is 22 per 100,000 miles (in the UK it’s about 0.5 per 100,000 for cars). On the face of it they are far more dangerous than current modes of travel.”


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